Clarets can stand proud after Emirates cup exit
Burnley, as most of the football world expected, were knocked out of the FA Cup yesterday by Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. It is the third time they’ve knocked us out of this competition in the last nine seasons but this was no easy win for the Gunners.
Despite them dominating the opening period, and despite them taking the lead, we fought back to draw level through Sam Vokes and lost it only by the one goal early in the second half.
Before I left home yesterday morning, I did an interview for Talksport. Micky Quinn was bemoaning the fact that Derby hadn’t given it a go against Manchester United in the Friday game and hoped Burnley wouldn’t do that.
Last season at Arsenal, we were, perhaps, a bit over cautious, but I don’t think that’s the way Sean Dyche operates at all, despite some such suggestions after recent poor away results. I suggested this was the game between the two managers I rate the best in English football and that I thought the underdogs, whilst not being in any way reckless, would try to take the game to Arsenal at every opportunity and I really thought we did that.
Cockfosters is our regular parking place for the Emirates and we were there just before noon, parked up and on the underground to Finsbury Park for some lunch. The walk to the stadium virtually took us past the old Highbury ground, a place I used to love going.
From the outside by the main stand it looks no different but this time some kind gentleman, visiting his son who lives in one of the one bedroom £600,000 apartments, took us in. We went past Herbert Chapman’s bust, still in the entrance area, down the old tunnel onto what used to be the touchline.
It certainly looks different than it did when Peter Noble scored the winner for us in the 1974/75 season but it is fantastic that, because of the two side stands being listed, that the ground is still being used even if it doesn’t look much like a football ground any more.
Tendayi Darikwa and Fredrik Ulvestad are in for Matt Lowton and Joey Barton and Paul Robinson is on the bench; that was the news that greeted us as we crossed the bridge to the imposing Emirates. It looks so impressive but it’s far from perfect. At least it didn’t rain for those close to the front but so shallow is the stepping in the lower tier that views are so easily obscured if someone taller is in front of you.
When the Arsenal team was announced you weren’t too sure whether to be pleased or disappointed that there was no Mesut Ӧzil in the squad. You want to see the best players in action but if no Ӧzil there was certainly Alexis Sanchez returning to the starting eleven for the first time since November. Surely he couldn’t turn in a performance anything like the one we saw from him last season.
It was almost a sensational start. Sam Vokes, who had the better of Gabriel, found Andre Gray in only the second minute but the striker’s shot flashed inches wide of the post. If he was unfortunate, he should have done better soon after when he saw his effort saved by David Ospina but had he looked across to his left he could have set up Vokes.
That chance came just after the start of the eleventh minute. The previous minute had seen the Burnley fans, as one, on their feet in a minute’s applause for Ray Pointer who sadly passed away this week. It was good too, to see the Burnley players wearing black arm bands as a mark of respect for one of our former greats.
Two chances, but generally it has to be said that Arsenal were the better team and Sanchez did appear to be involved in just about everything and he certainly was when they took the lead. It was his clever little pass that found Calum Chambers and the full back’s finish was exquisite, firing across Tom Heaton into the far corner with the outside of his right foot.
I think when you go behind to this Arsenal team you fear the worst, but that was very much anything but the case on the pitch. I thought our response was outstanding and fully deserved the equaliser we got.
We got down the left and when the ball came into the box Arsenal had two attempts to clear. The second of them dropped for George Boyd. He found Scott Arfield who played it out wide to Darikwa. His cross was perfect for Vokes who towered over the defender to head home powerfully before celebrating with his team mates right in front of the Burnley fans in that corner.
It certainly quietened the Gunners and other than a push in the last couple of minutes, they didn’t threaten us too much for the remainder of the first half and we went in with the scores level at 1-1.
Gray was close again right at the start of the first half but unfortunately the winner wasn’t far away. Darikwa gave away possession up the field and Arsenal did what Arsenal do, they broke quickly. It finally reached Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right and his ball into the box was met by Sanchez who finished expertly.
I sensed that might be it and in truth we didn’t create too much in terms of chances. Arsenal had their moments though and Heaton saved well on a couple of occasions.
But don’t get me wrong, this was no one sided affair and despite being a goal behind we really did give it everything we had to get back into it. Dyche made his changes. Barton came on for David Jones and Rouwen Hennings replaced the impressive Vokes.
I’m sure Barton came on just to confirm there was precious little support coming from the home fans. The Burnley fans were noisy for much of the afternoon but the library effect was evident amongst the home fans, this before they decided to leave for home before the end.
After the game Barton taunted Piers Morgan, a Gooner, on Twitter.
— Joseph Barton (@Joey7Barton) January 30, 2016
He played his part and set up Gray with a half chance right at the end before Arsenal came close to bagging a third. With Burnley pushing forward, Theo Walcott broke and found himself one-on-one with Heaton. Heaton won the day; a third would have been cruel and undeserved on the Clarets.
That was it, we are out of the FA Cup having reached the fourth round for the first time in five years, but this was always a tough ask and I don’t think anyone can be disappointed with our performance, nor the way we played the game.
Beaten, but surely we can leave the Emirates on a real high, knowing that we have a squad that is more than capable of getting back into the same league as one of the teams currently considered one of the favourites to lift the Premier League title.
There were no glum faces in the away end, just pride at the way we’d played. We’ve got a good side and once more we showed that.
The teams were;
Arsenal: David Ospina, Calum Chambers, Gabriel, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Francis Coquelin (Mikel Arteta 71), Alex Iwobi (Tomas Rosicky 71), Mohamed Elneny, Alexis Sanchez (Theo Walcott 78), Olivier Giroud. Subs not used: Petr Cech, Naco Monreal, Hector Bellerin, Joel Campbell.
Yellow Card: Laurent Koscielny.
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Tendayi Darikwa, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd (Michael Kightly 80), Fredrik Ulvestad, David Jones (Joey Barton 67), Scott Arfield, Sam Vokes (Rouwen Hennings 75), Andre Gray. Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Matt Lowton, Michael Duff, Matt Taylor.
Yellow Card: Scott Arfield.
Referee: Roger East (Wiltshire).
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